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Health minister Chikara Sakaguchi said Friday he is considering legislation that would require judicial authorities to determine whether institutionalization is necessary for psychiatric patients who commit crimes.

Asked about the treatment of such patients, Sakaguchi told a news conference, “I believe it is appropriate to deal with it by instituting special legislation so that not only psychiatrists but also a judgment of the judiciary would be taken into account in (determining the need for) hospitalization.”

The issue has been in the headlines since a knife-wielding man with a history of mental problems went on a stabbing rampage at an Osaka elementary school on June 8, leaving eight pupils dead and 13 others and two teachers injured.

Sakaguchi indicated he would consider the legislation with the aim of submitting it to the Diet next year.

Sakaguchi said new legislation is the best way to deal with the issue, rather than revising the Penal Code, which exempts suspects with mental problems from punishment, or the psychiatric health and welfare law, which aims to help psychiatric patients return to society.

The psychiatric health law provides for forced hospitalization of a criminal with mental problems on the advice of a psychiatrist.

“It is difficult to have a psychiatrist alone bear the responsibility for a patient who might commit a crime again,” Sakaguchi said.

He also stressed the need to provide care once patients are released.

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